The Farmers’ Market Bri Built, Sort of: Part I
I live in a Farmers’ Market Wonderland.
No, seriously. In the tiny, weird, generally beautiful-but-also-always-confusing state of Rhode Island, there’s a big movement for local food. We’ve got the benefit of size (as in, lack thereof) on our side, so one nonprofit organization basically runs the majority of the farmers’ markets and local food distribution efforts in the entire state. At the height of the summer every year, there are over 50 organized farmers’ markets throughout Rhode Island – which, if you consider that the state is only 48 miles long from top to bottom, is a pretty impressive number. It also doesn’t take into account independent farm stands and other local agricultural models, so…yeah. We’re lucky to have lots of access to local food.
The thing is, Rhode Islanders being the weird lot we are (and although I’m a transplant to RI, I’ll include myself in the mix here), we won’t drive very far to get stuff. Even GOOD stuff, like local food. So when the 50+ summer markets dry up and go away in October and November, and we’re left with basically two farmers’ markets for the ENTIRE STATE until May comes back around, a little bit of panic sets in. You’d think that from my centrally located neighborhood, which supports a thriving summer market, we’d all truck the 20 or 30 minutes either north OR south to a winter market of our choosing.
You’d think that. And you’d be dead wrong.
First of all, driving that far simply for food violates a core principle of living in Rhode Island: Thou shalt not drive any more than 10 minutes unless absolutely necessary, ESPECIALLY if there is a bridge involved (and there’s always a bridge). Secondly, it’s inconvenient because in another twist of Rhode Island fate, parking at the bigger of the two markets, bluntly, sucks. And in neither market space can you actually maneuver very successfully, because they’re so crammed with tables and shoppers in bulky winter coats that buying a head of cabbage can feel like being on the trading floor at the NY Stock Exchange. Add to all of that the fact that anyone with kids or a life can’t necessarily deal with all of that between 10 a.m. and noon on a Saturday with any kind of regularity, and the winter markets – as wonderful as they are, as packed with shoppers as they are – become more of a once-a-season novelty (“Oooh! Look, kids, locally produced cranberry chutney! Smile for the camera!”) than a means of supplying our families with food.
… when the 50+ summer markets dry up and go away in October and November, and we’re left with basically two farmers’ markets for the ENTIRE STATE until May comes back around, a little bit of panic sets in.”
After eight years of devoted shopping at my neighborhood’s summer market, I’ve gotten to know the vendors and love their food. I’ve also developed a huge sense of guilt about the fact that I don’t cast everything else in my life aside during the winter months to shop at the winter markets that exist and support local agriculture. After thinking about it for a while – like, at least a year, probably more – I decided it was high time to open my big fat mouth and utter the following words:
“So, if I said I thought I could get a space for it, do you think we could throw together a winter market here?”
Yup. Big mouth. Lofty ambitions. And suddenly, a whole bunch of very, very interested farmers.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Bri’s adventures in forming a winter farmers’ market!
Photo Credit: Kim Morin| Blue Skys Farm
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